The Online Marketplace: Confusion in a Promising New Frontier

walmart marketplaceMany larger retailers are now allowing their suppliers to list and sell products on their websites directly through an online marketplace. When a sale is made, sometimes the supplier ships the products, and sometimes the retailer handles the fulfillment of the order. But always it is the retailer who collects the customer’s money. That’s where the confusion can start for many consumers.

Everybody wins – to a point.

There are plenty of advantages to go around with this setup. Retailers have more products to sell. Suppliers reach more prospects and thus build sales. Shoppers have the convenience of shopping online for more items.

Ah, but the consumer. He or she doesn’t necessarily see now a marketplace sale differs from a retailer sale. And therein lies the rub.

Trouble areas are easy to spot but not easy to correct.

Customer service issues. It’s easy when the customer is happy and the product is just what was wanted and arrives in perfect condition. Any variation of that can pose a problem and a lot of subsequent misunderstanding. Customers may feel like they are getting the runaround when a retailer tells them to talk with the vendor. Refunds can get very messy, especially since it’s the retailer’s payment system that’s usually used for the payment.

Guarantees. Customers get mixed up because they don’t see the difference between the marketplace vendors’ merchandise and the retailer’s products. Doesn’t this guarantee apply to everything on the site, they ask? Not necessarily.

Listing errors and typos. Oops. A vendor lists an incorrect price for his item. Now who’s to blame – in the customer’s eyes?

Add to the list of how-to-confuse-the consumer things like special promotions made by a single vendor, questionable products, and liability issues.

An online marketplace is probably in your future.

Just the same, all things considered, the relatively new area called marketplaces is worth a supplier’s time and attention. It is an amazing opportunity to reach more prospects and ring up additional sales. And, as with most new ideas, in time it will be understood.